Live report : Cunninlynguists + Sadistik @ Molodoi 05/26/14
Monday nights are sort of Sunday nights’ evil twins. But Pelpass decided it would go another way round with this idea – quite silly actually – to program a monstrous hip-hop event. An evening that mixed a great newcommer and a legendary band : a gig that will probably go down in history.
We often see in the « West coast » style all the imagery of cars with big engines, picturing an allegory of more or less massive feminine butts (you can twist both sides of the metaphor), against a background of badass shiny rings, guns and dollars. But the West coast of the United States of America isn’t limited to the frontiers of Los Angeles. It is also the birthplace of a whole musical scene, which left its footprint on musical history of the 90’s, and could probably remind you of something, : I am of course talking about Seattle, birthplace of Hendrix, but also of tiny little bands such as Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
Judging by Sadistik’s stage entrance, we can feel that heritage, materialized into a grunge-like hair cut, completely at the opposite of hip-hop canevas (but I assume the term of canevas suits better to a motionless France). No, we won’t experience a weird kind of Grind-Extreme-Hop concert, but a great hip-hop show, equally refreshing, well-thought out, sharp but also old-school in the meantime, with a strong attachement to texts – well structured and crafted in the meaning and the sound, their depth and their impact. A poetic gesture that sounds quite « East Coast ».
Flowers for my father is his new album : the title sums up my meaning pretty well : it is a simple alliteration that can mean a lot more. There is a small step from the death of a father to Roses for Stalin. Sadistik stinks the scorches, the mire, which would have chosen to enhance its inner self on the dirty base of manure rather than just plunge deeper into it without making something different with that shitty gold. The lyrics are always compensating their cleverness with a doubt on all kind of possibilities to achieve ones life or meaning. This fact is taking huge proportions into « Virginia Woolf », sort of an « odd » to a forsaken and disappeared poetess, which is close to the MC, who is the stone that helps Virginia’s body. In the depth of the abyss, they will discover together the lyrics of the song as a message found in a bottle (who said Edgar Allan Poe?).
This is just one example chosen through the whole set, of a remarkable and constant quality whether musically or in the flow, a « shitinyourownpantskindaflow ». Clearly, it is a good way to get the audience going, « fantastic » according to what he said, but let us answer him : no, you are the only fantastic motherfucker out here. It was a huge surprise for me, kind of a love at first sight concert.
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Then comes the tenors, the champions : Cunninlynguists are in the house, biatch ! A traditional presentation seems useless, judging by the warm welcome they received. If they are not well ahead in the charts or in radio, rot by pukative sound most of the time, they actually have a qualitative amount of admirers that cannot be contradicted. We were talking warmly of the geographical odds of a rapper from the West tainted by Eastern colours. We can say the exact opposite about Cunninlynguists : these lads from Kentucky (hometown of god damned bourbon, of the famous derby, and a delicious redneck nuance) seem to deploy a West Coast style of music. Be careful, I am not comparing the band with the complacency of bling bling and bad taste.
I am talking about a tendency to leave the cerebral aspect of hip hop aside for a bit in its finish, using apparently simple and efficient basics : massive sounds, classical iconography (which refers, let us say, quite permanently to marijuana), and an authentic background of puns and killer flow, with more nominal phrases, sharper, and a bit more direct than Sadistik.
If their sound is heavy and catchy, it always originates in a peculiarly pleasant sonic research. But these geographical dichotomies are vain, I already mentioned it, as far as boundaries seem less strong in American music : the freedom, if it is questionable on a political scale, seems really effective into the artistic movements : you can be a MC and wear a Lynyrd Skynyrd cap, without trying to be a bland hipster. From East to West, we do not give a fuck : this evening was a vortex.
Cunninlynguists make a plunge into the heart of the live hip hop experience : the band often calls out the audience, shaking it, hardly but always being funny. Beyond the audience involvement, a band that likes so much to play with words (right up to their own name) – we can say that Kno never lacks of humor (he always introduces himself in a wrong way, pretending to be Mac Miller, Macklemore etc…)
Everything is running fast, the whole set has no time out, and gives you a hard-on from the beginning to the end. Cunninlynguists, if it is talkative, vivid and hybrid, makes the language barrier explode, for who would try to restitute the pleasure in a cold review, who would never bring the sparkle and the whole heat of such a live experiment. The new songs kick serious ass, and adapt marvellously to the classics.
The gig was short, but was one of the few that distorts time and brings you such a huge intensity. It was nearly salutary : the room was boiling and the audience sweaty : we entered fat and stupid, and we came out puny and ruddy, but with the heaviness of a memory that will glow for a long time in our moody brains, as one of the best Monday nights of our lives.
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By Jean-Gauthier Martin
With special thanks to Jeremy Allan Hawkins